KARACHI: (APS)May 30, 2016-IUCN Pakistan and BaanhnBeli in collaboration with the Ministry of Climate Change organized a Regional Symposium on conservation of vultures in Asia today. The symposium was organized under the Vultures Conservation Project being implemented jointly byBaanhn Beliand IUCN under a USAID funded Small Grants and Ambassador Fund project.
Representatives of the government, media and academia, as well as local and regional species and vulture experts from India, Bangladesh, Thailand and Nepal attended the Symposium.
The purpose of the symposium was to bring together regional vulture experts to learn from their experiences and knowledge of conservation of these essential birds in the Asia Region.
Senator Saleem Zia, who was the chief guest at the inaugural session, appreciated the efforts of BaanhnBeli and IUCN strongly endorsing stringent actions against the use of diclofenac that is said to have been a major contributor to the steep decline in vulture population in Pakistan.
He further said that concerted efforts on local, provincial, national and regional levels will be required to prepare and implement an effective strategy for the protection and conservation of vultures.
In her opening remarks, Ms. Aban Marker Kabraji, IUCN Regional Director Asia said that IUCN as an international organization with a mix of state, government agencies and NGO members,“brings together a wide range of stakeholders on issues of mutual interest on neutral ground. In this capacity, IUCN will continue promoting dialogues on natural resource issues between people from various fields, sectors and government tiers.”
She appreciated the efforts of the Governments that they have recognized the need to scale-up conservation breeding and reintroduction programmes, and highlighted the urgent need for trans-boundary Vulture Safe Zones to conserve vulture populations in the wild.
In his opening remarks, Syed Abu Ahmad Akif, Federal Secretary, Ministry of Climate Change, mentioned theresearch conducted in Pakistan on the vanishing of vultures and its verification by regional countries, revealed that “diclofenac sodium” (a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug) administered in the livestock was the main cause of this sudden decline in the population of vultures in South Asia. “The Government of Pakistan realizing the importance of species responded quickly and banned diclofenac production and its use in the country.”
Later in the closing ceremony, Mr. Arif Ahmed Khan, former Secretary, Ministry of Climate Change, and now Secretary, Ministry of Interior, also shared his views on the vulture issue – saying that “governments need some policy level decisions across South Asia, and that drugs such as the diclofenac needed to be discontinued and that relevant government officials, such as in health, also needed to be sensitized to understand the gravity of the issue.
He added that while efforts were underway the existing situation required stronger measures and steps to ensure that vulture numbers increase.
Mr. Mahmood Akhtar Cheema, Country Representative IUCN Pakistan,gave an overview of IUCN’s efforts towards species conservation, especially with respect to vulture conservation, and highlighted the role the organization had been playing in sustainable development, through its membership, commission members and collaborations with governments.
Syed Mahmood Nasir, Inspector General Forests, Government of Pakistan reiterated the many threats vultures were facing which included shortage of dead animals on which they feed, encroachment by humans in their habitats.
Technical sessions included presentations by regional experts who shared their experience in vulture conservation and suggested measures that could be adopted in Pakistan to further speed up efforts towards arresting the decline.
Dr. Syed Ali Ghalib and Dr. Fehmida Firdous, who had conducted a baseline on vultures in Nagarparkar in Sindh, reported their findings during the event and pinpointed areas where specific vulture populations were still to be found.